VIDEO: Latest developments in poultry gut health research

Dr. Maarten de Gussem, Vetworks managing director, discusses the greatest poultry gut health challenges and the most promising solutions.

Vetwork’s Maarten de Gussem offers his take on areas of poultry gut health research with the most potential to change broiler production

Interest in improving poultry health by improving a bird’s immunity and gut function is a popular area of discussion among feed nutritionists and producers. Much of the conversation focuses on enhanced management on the farm, biosecurity and feed additive solutions to combat ubiquitous disease challenges.

To discuss the latest advancements in poultry gut health research and key areas of focus for poultry producers, Maarten de Gussem, managing director of the independent poultry consultants group Vetworks, joined the chat to share his opinions.

Latest developments in poultry gut health research from WATT Global Media on Vimeo.

TRANSCRIPT: Feed Strategy Chat with Dr. Maarten de Gussem, managing director, Vetworks

Jackie Roembke, editor, Feed Strategy: Today we’re joined on Zoom by Dr. Maarten de Gussem, managing director of Vetworks, a team of independent poultry consultants providing technical support and hands-on training all over the world. Maarten is here to offer his take on the latest developments in poultry gut health research.

Hi, Maarten, how are you?

Dr. Maarten de Gussem, managing director of Vetworks: Hey, I’m good. How are you?

Roembke: I’m doing very well. Thank you. So let’s talk a little bit about your business. What is the most common challenge your customers face? And how do you and your team help them overcome it?

De Gussem: Well, it’s not a secret that I say that feed cost is the most important cost factor in poultry meat production. And the real challenge is that, globally, the companies producing poultry meat are facing is keeping that feed cost as low as possible. And the big challenge that we have that our customers have is to keep that balance of feed intake is to get as high as possible and to have the balance.

That the digestive and absorptive capacities of the gut can keep pace with that feed intake. That is the main challenge.

Roembke: And, in your opinion, what has been the most important discovery related to poultry gut health in recent years?

De Gussem: Well, when I refer to that biggest challenge, the discovery or the fact or the better understanding of why we see a suboptimal digestive and absorptive capacity in our gut, and how that is linked with microbiota, and the host’s gut interactions.

That understanding is maybe not that spectacular in the way that there was, like, one invention. But that’s progressively better understanding of how the immune system and microbiota are interacting with each other. That is, for me, an amazing improvement in also finding solutions for this problem.

And the fact that these insights come partly from developments on the human medical side. It makes it also very intriguing to see that the chicken, which is very different from a mammal, is facing similar issues like what we see in human medicine, and then we can learn from the human medical side versus they can also learn, of course, from our poultry insights.

Roembke: What areas of gut health research are you the most excited to see develop in the future? And how could those change poultry production and feeding?

De Gussem: That’s a good question. There is a mixture for me of challenges that we can consider very old, like coccidiosis. We have been dealing with coccidiosis issues for, let’s say, last 100 years, and still, we are not able to eliminate coccidiosis. So, for me, that keeps being a very important attention point.

The bacterial enteritis, how that interacts with the immune system, is for me that second area of focus.

And then maybe a runner-up, lately, what I see is viral enteritis where we used to say is a bit of a black box, we don’t really understand what it is meaning because we have strains that are not so pathogenic versus strains that we can use in models, but not all of them will do that in all conditions.

So it was a bit of a black box, but what I do see is that a better understanding of the molecular profile of these viral strains are allowing us a much better understanding of what strains are pathogenic, which ones are not pathogenic.

So the coccidiosis, the bacterial enteritis and also the viral enteritis, I see those as three focus areas to be to be covered.

Roembke: In the short term, what can poultry producers do to improve the health of their flock?

De Gussem: Well, the previous answer indicates already what for me are the top three things.

One, coccidiosis control. That means focus on rotation programs that allow you to have a maximum efficacy of the anticoccidial solutions that you could put in the preventive way to into the feed. Rotating with a solution, such coccidiosis vaccines that allow you to keep that the sensitivity of this parasite against this works as high as possible. So that is, for me, the first starting point to have a a optimal gut health.

The second part is bacterial enteritis. To understand that vicious circle of bacteria enteritis where you have several instigators — like cocci, mycotoxins, viral enteritis — cause the microbiota changes that then lead to the higher levels of inflammation in the gut. Understanding that process allows you to find solutions that give you a holistic improvement of the situation. So that’s the second pillar.

And then as a third pillar, I think, look into your viral enteritis issues with the tools that we have available today.

We don’t rely so much anymore on simple serology that would very often turns out to be positive or so use cell conversion against this viruses. But that don’t really mean anything if you don’t know if the strain is pathogenic or not. No. Use the molecular tools available now, with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and then sequencing and typing the strain to understand the enteritis viruses: Are they part of that enteritis complex or not? What is the link between your breeder flocks and your broiler flocks?

Those are, for me, the really exciting, low-hanging fruits to try to catch.

Roembke: Thank you so much, Maarten. If you’d like more information about Vetworks and its services, please visit Thank you, Maarten, and thanks to you for tuning in.

De Gussem: It’s my pleasure.

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